After a rare appearance on Capitol Hill by first daughter Ivanka Trump on Tuesday, senators emerged from their closed-door get-together calling it “a great start” and a “first step” in paving the way ahead for legislation that will help Americans receive paid family leave and affordable child care.
“I think it’s encouraging the White House has made the concept, the idea of paid leave a priority,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, told reporters.
Rubio said he “emceed” the meeting and said he’s hoping paid family leave and child care tax credits are negotiated as part of the long-anticipated tax reform plan. He invited a few of his Republican colleagues to attend so that they could openly discuss ways to make the tax code more family-friendly.
“I don’t think it’s unrealistic,” Rubio said. “Whether it’s this year or early next year, the time frame will depend on the general course of tax reform ... right now we’re in the input stage,” he said.
But “we should be prepared to move independently if it's not” a part of the overall tax reform bill, Rubio added.
Rubio said Trump was in “receive mode” and that their meeting was the first of many. He also said Trump showed a “strong interest” in tax reform that included child care tax credits.
Rubio is no stranger to calling for a paid family leave -- he campaigned on it during his bid for president last year.
“I think I was the only person running for president that supported a paid leave proposal,” Rubio said.
He acknowledged that these issues are not always something his Republican colleagues have cared about in the past.
“For the Republican Party, some of these issues have not traditionally been a part of our agenda,” Rubio said. “So I think we need to spend some time changing that dynamic for no other reason then I think part of it is generational.
“What I can tell you is there’s a growing desire within the Republican conference in the Senate and the House to address the fundamental fact that there are people in America who have decided that they can’t afford to have children because they can’t take a month off of work and they may not be paid. There is a growing number of people returning to work within days of having a child because they can't afford not to,” Rubio said.
“It’s been a goal of mine for a long time and it’s been a goal of Ms. Trump too, and obviously the president to ensure that our tax code recognizes the challenges for families today,” Rubio said. “The cost of child care, the cost of long-term care for an elderly parent, the cost of everyday life, the challenges that parents face on a regular basis, the cost of living and unfortunately ... the people who get the most help oftentimes are the people that can afford it the most. And the families who could really need the help don’t really have the vehicle by which to access it.”
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, said the meeting with Trump was about making the administration aware of what House and Senate members are already working on with regards to paid family leave so that they can “coordinate” and “put forward some good ideas” together.
Fischer reintroduced a bill in the Senate this year that would offer a tax credit to businesses who offer paid family leave to employees.
Trump is calling for a mandate on businesses. Her father President Donald Trump's budget includes a provision she championed, which would require six weeks of parental leave, paid for by state unemployment insurance primarily.
“In order to do public policy right, it takes a little bit of time and a lot of input to make sure you have answers to every question and understand how it all works together. So I would encourage patience. I know we’re all operating on 30-minute news cycle, but tax policy of this sort and broader policy of this sort takes a little bit of time,” Rubio said.
“We’re truly going to be a nation of opportunity for all then everyone’s gonna have to have an equal opportunity,” Rubio said.
“Sounds like a good presidential platform.” a reporter said.
“Yeah I tried it,” Rubio said, laughing as he walked away.